Jockey Dies in the Saddle, 1923

Feb 10th 2009 12:00 am |

Another weekend closer to warm weather and the First Saturday in May – I did a little housecleaning on Saturday digging through articles and found an interesting (but tragic) story that I thought I would share.

On the new Animal Planet show Jockeys we learned – with subtlety of a lead pipe to the head – that riding race horses is dangerous. Most accidents occur when riders fall from their mounts but not all unfortunate ends have been the result of a fall according to this story relayed in 1931 by the late, great Shirley Povich:

“The race track is famed in song, story, and the movies for its romance. But it holds a notable place, too, in life’s tragedies. Charles ‘Horses’ Ayres recounts the true story of death riding a horse over the finish line to victory.”

“Belmont Park was the scene on June 4, 1923. Jockey F. Hayes, riding a sterling finish on Sweet Kiss, a famous steeplechaser, was stricken with heart failure as he charged into the stretch in the lead. To the spectators it appeared as if Hayes with victory assured, was hand-riding his mount in the closing stages, slumped as he was over the horse’s neck. Sweet Kiss had hardly crossed the finish line, however, when Hayes toppled from the saddle. All rules were waved by the Jockey Club in this instance, the result being declared official without the customary formality of weighing in.”

The New York Times reported that Hayes was an apprentice and “…the attack probably [was] brought on by severe training to make weight and the subsequent excitement of riding his first winner.” The 22-year-old jockey was buried in his racing silks three days later.


I liked the new Animal Planet show. It definitely hooked me and I’ll keep watching but it kills me how “reality” TV tries to enhance drama where drama already exists. The racing sequences, while beautiful in high-def, were ridiculous. Do we really need the music track and incessant number of cuts and odd angles to make the race more exciting? It reminds me of the overdone boxing sequences in The Contender that made a conceptually perfect show totally unwatchable.

Another thing: Was it just me or did Garrett Gomez come off as a cold-blooded killer? Wow! Loved the suit he wears to work — is that a common practice or did he catch wind that the film crew was going to be there?

Overall, I think the show has potential to generate new fans which is a good thing. Problems aside, the behind the scenes stuff was compelling and I learned a thing or two.

I’m interested to see how it how it plays out. I’ll be setting the Tivo next week – the number of commercials was unbelievable.

I enjoyed Dana’s take on the show over at Green But Game. I am also employing her “Chantal Traffic Boost Theory” here:

Image: Chantal Sutherland is reason enough to keep watching Jockeys. Is this proof that nice guys (Mike Smith) sometimes do finish first? (New York Times)


“This Morning with Shirley L. Povich,” Washington Post, November 21, 1931

“Jockey dies as he wins his first race,” New York Times, June 5, 1923

“Bury jockey Frank Hayes in his riding silks,” Washington Post, June 8, 1923

I cashed my only bet of the weekend on Cowboy Cal in the Strub. I have been a fan of his since being in attendance for his win in the 2007 Laurel Futurity. His race in the San Pasqual, I thought, was outstanding and was happy to get 3-1 on him Saturday. It would be nice to see the McNair’s have success with the one horse they kept out of the Stonerside sale.

Looking forward to putting together my Run for Roses stable — I have been historically bad with this but will be giving it another go this year. The Thoroughbred Blogger’s Alliance has a league that is open to all who would like to participate. Info about the group is here

Hialeah not dead yet? Go Halsey! When all else fails, sue…it’s the American way!

Thanks for Reading and Good Luck!

Filed in jockey death

5 Responses to “Jockey Dies in the Saddle, 1923”

  1. dana says:

    great post, as always.

    any luck in the traffic boost department?

  2. Handride says:

    Thanks for the link, I think you’re downplaying your astute observation skills and are just trying to sucker us into giving you more prizes.

  3. Colins Ghost says:

    Hey Dana: Not much luck…I’ll have to figure out ways to get her name in a headline: “Chantal Sutherland, 2009: Future Historical Figure” (or something like that)

    Handride: I have been known to sandbag but my RTTR stables have been historically bad. I played it a bit more conservative this year and stayed away from the unknowns.

  4. Graham Kelly says:

    approximately 14th December 1944 a jockey by the name of Percy Blake died after a fall from a horse. is there any information re Percy Blake i.e. did he ride in races at Hialeah. Who was his next to kin.?where was he buried etc.
    I am his grandson trying to full in the many gaps from when he first arrived in London England about 1920, also believed to work at New York Jockey Club in 1942

  5. Gem says:

    Frank Hayes was actually 35 not 22 – born in 1888, died in 1923.